Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oh Henry!!

Henry Burris and the rest of the Ottawa Red/Blacks punched their ticket to the Grey Cup game last weekend. They disposed of the Hamilton Tiger Cats 35-28 in the Eastern Conference final played in Ottawa. The Red/Blacks had earned the right to host the final game by virtue of their record during the season. They had defeated the Ticats twice, and had finished in first place. This was truly a remarkable turnaround from last season, when they won two games. As they say, they have gone from worst to first!

Meanwhile the Edmonton Eskimos knocked off  their provincial arch rivals, the Calgary Stampeders to play in the final game of the Canadian Football League. The score was 45-31. That means that there were eighty points scored by the winning teams.

There should be fireworks this Sunday in Winnipeg, the Grey Cup host city. One  factor that may keep the scoring down would be the weather. Everyone knows that it can be cool in the winter in “Winterpeg”. Hold your toque tightly if you venture near the corner of Portage and Main. Many Grey Cup games have been played in dreadful conditions. Cold weather is inevitable.   

I am now advising you to get your tickets for next season’s games in Ottawa as soon as they become available. They will sell out for every game. More than 25 000 fans enjoyed the game against Hamilton, right up to the final seconds. Hamilton scored to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, and most of us suspected that we would see overtime. Not so fast, Myrtle!

Henry tossed a bomb downfield to one of his trusty receivers. Greg Ellingson made an improbable catch, watched one defender collapse beside him, and outran the rest of the weary Ticats to score the final touchdown. Announcers indicated that it was one of the most dramatic catches in CFL history. Burris had three other receivers who had put up big yardage over the season, more that a thousand yards each.

After all, the Canadian game favours the forward pass. We get three downs to make the ten yards necessary to get another first down, as opposed to the American game. Our field is longer and wider, and our end zones are enormous in comparison to those south of the border.

In 1981, the Ottawa Rough Riders lost in the Grey Cup to these same Eskimos. Warren Moon was at the helm for the Edmonton team at that time. He went on to have a storied career in the NFL, leading to his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. Edmonton was coached by Hugh Campbell at that time. Hugh’s son Rick was ten years old at that time. He is now the head coach of the Red/Blacks!

It had been 32 years since the last playoff game in Ottawa, and the fans were ready for the experience. The entire area around Lansdowne Park has been spruced up to accommodate sports fans. There are fine restaurants, and wide open spaces where fans congregate before the games. There is a wonderful pre-game experience that I know you will enjoy next season. If you wear your red and black lumberjack shirt, you will fit right in.

After the game, you are welcome to go down onto the field for a meet and greet with other fans, and the players. It is a real treat to share moments with the players, particularly after a victory!! This would never happen in the National Football League.

Fasten up those chin straps. Put on an extra pair of long johns, if you are heading to Winnipeg. Game time: 6:00pm. A great |Canadian tradition!

James Hurst


Saturday, November 14, 2015


Bike Polo 2015

                                    Kyle Buonocore and David Hutchinson Battle for the ball.

Yes. You did read that correctly. There really is a Bike Polo phenomenon in North America. There are several other areas in the world where the game is played, thirty countries, in fact.

There are more than 20 cities in Canada with Bike Polo venues. There are three in the Ottawa area, including Arnprior and Almonte. The games take place near Allen Park Elementary School in Fort Myers on a tennis court. The top teams in the country place in arenas.

It is as simple as it sounds. Players rides their bicycles and use croquet-like mallets to bang around a ball hockey ball. The nets are six feet wide, but a little lower than hockey nets. Occasionally, a player acts as a goaltender.

There is one simple trick all players must learn to be proficient at the game: your feet cannot touch the ground. I always had trouble maintaining that kind of balance. In an introductory look at the game, a team called the Guardians plays the Corgoyles. (probikepolo.com)

There are only three riders on each team. I really like the way the game is started. No jump ball, no dropping the puck. The ball is placed at centre ice, and the centres race from their ends in a jousting manner to get control of the ball.

Bobby Feldman has played the game for almost six years. He is my supervisor at the Edison and Ford Estates, and, during our brief breaks, he will discuss the game with me. "Yes," he told me, "there are injuries." In a recent practice, another competitor, Joelle Hammes nursed a fat lip she received after being hit with an errant shot. 

Bobby said that gloves are important in the game. He indicated that there are gloves made specifically for bike polo. There are also bike polo bikes, which do not come cheaply. One frame and fork he showed me on the net was $ 500. But many players use regular sturdy bikes. Helmets are mandatory in league play.

A couple of weeks ago, Steve showed up after reading about the game. Steve is 72. Players soon realized he was not your ordinary senior. After the game, he revealed that he had worked with bicycles for years, in the circus. he offered to take his unicycle to the next practice!

The West Coast appears to be a hotbed for the sport. The best teams are now located in San Francisco and Seattle. There are teams in British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

Bobby has played in several tournaments in Florida, as well as in Puerto Rico and Anchorage, Alaska. His team is preparing for an event in Gauadalajara, Mexico. The world championships are in New Zealand, in February.

"Checking is allowed in the game," he told me. "Clean hits are fine." 
Joelle recently indicated that she really looks forward to the pick-up games played in Fort Myers. She has competed in two tournaments, and now that she has recovered from reconstructive knee surgery, she is ready to play. "It really makes my week."

I twigged to Bobby's comments when I first heard about the game. The campus at the front of our high school in Belleville had a hard and unforgiving surface. We played bike polo there, with croquet mallets and a tennis ball. I vaguely remember battered shins from those battles.

The first three-on-three tournament in the city takes place in mid-December. Teams are expected from Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, Miami, Palm Beach, and Weston.
Yet another way to make good use of a tennis court, when the nets are down!

James Hurst
November 14, 2015.
Photo: Kyle Buonocore and David Hutchinson battle for the ball, with Bobby Feldman in pursuit.

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